Playoff season is officially upon us. Even though the Eagles aren’t competing for a Super Bowl this year, Fran Duffy, Chris McPherson and Alex Smith tuned into this past weekend’s Wild Card games and recapped the trends on this latest edition of the Eagles Insider Podcast.
All four games were exciting and interesting for different reasons. The Steelers had a huge comeback in the final minutes, Houston was shutout at home, Minnesota lost its game after missing a 27-yard field goal in the final minute and the Packers overcame an 11-point deficit before coming away with the win.
So, what were some of the biggest reasons the Steelers, Packers, Chiefs and Seahawks finished on top?
“There’s always those certain statistics that really kind of tell a story for a winning team,” Duffy explained. “The turnover ratio has always been huge, and you look at this past season, the teams that finished in the top five in terms of turnover ratio, all five made the playoffs. Carolina had plus-20. Kansas City was plus-14. Cincinnati was plus-11. Arizona (was) plus-9 and New England was plus-7.
“When you finish in the plus territory for the turnover ratio, you’re going to win more games than you’re going to lose. That turned out to be the case this weekend. You look at (Bengals running back) Jeremy Hill and the impact that fumble had at the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers game, allowing Pittsburgh to pull ahead.”
In addition to a team’s turnover ratio, another determining factor among the league’s most dominant teams is its coach-quarterback combination. Success seems to start there.
“You have Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton obviously having an outstanding season, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer,” Duffy said. “Alex Smith has played well. For what he is, he has played very well. He’s played efficient football for (Kansas City). You can see, what is the winning formula? Starting with a coach and a quarterback.”
Also On The Eagles Insider Podcast:
Three-And-Out at the 3:11 mark
Game Time at the 18:12 mark
Mailing It In at the 26:14 mark
With the coaching search in full effect, Fran Duffy spoke with former NFL scout Dan Hatman about the role of a scout in this stage. Clearly without a head coach in place there is no system to find talent for, which in turn could make a scout’s job much tougher.
Hatman explained that throughout a coaching search’s process, a college scout’s job does not change. They still attend bowl games and things of that nature to better understand the players entering the NFL Draft. Where things get a little bit trickier is for NFL scouts.
“On the pro side, you’re trying to prepare for free agency,” Hatman explained. “You are trying to make sure that you have not just one, not just two, three or more grades on every free agent. You cross-check them. You thoroughly understand them. You start to prioritize that board against what your draft board looks like. You can start analyzing, ‘Alright, we think this position looks a little thin in the draft. We would like to address it.’
“When you are evaluating players, you need to evaluate them within the context of how that head coach and that set of coordinators wants to apply them. I was here when we had parted from Andy Reid to Chip Kelly, and I had graded 1,200 players that year. I’m grading them for what I perceive to be the continuation of Andy’s tenure, his offense, his defense, his special teams. When Chip comes on, it’s an entirely different model.
"In my opinion, you have to move from those final evaluation grades of where we think these players might be on a certain board down to what I refer to as trade grade. What can this player do? What does this player struggle with? When that coaching search is complete and that individual walks in and sets his staff, you have that ultimate staff meeting determining ‘This is what we want this position to look like. This is what we want this position to look like.’ You can start applying what you’ve learned about each player through the free agent season and the draft season to what this coach’s models look like.”
Also On The Eagle Eye In The Sky Podcast:
Saturday Scouting at the 20:33 mark
We will provide complete coverage from the site of the East-West Shrine Game next week. On the Journey to the Draft Podcast presented by AAA, Fran Duffy outlined the seven players he's most interested in seeing up close and in person.
DL Ronald Blair, Appalachian State
The 6-4, 270-pound defensive lineman impresses on tape. In addition to his size, he has the quickness and a really high motor. Clemson couldn't block him back in September when these two teams met. Blair is relentless on the field and his violent hands give offensive linemen issues. In 2015, he led his team with 19 tackles for loss on the season, and he also finished with an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
DL Aziz Shittu, Stanford
Shittu is an interesting player because of his ability to win both inside and outside and with a couple of different moves. At 6-3, 279 pounds, he has very good athleticism for the defensive line spot and plays with excellent technique, allowing him to be effective in one-gap and two-gap situations.
CB Michael Jordan, Missouri Western State
Because of Jordan’s 5-11, 200-pound size, deceptive athleticism and his natural ability to play the ball in the air, he makes for an interesting prospect. He's got great ball skills, and his instincts in coverage are impressive for a small-school player. His ability to both disrupt at the line and at the catch point makes him a very attractive option for teams that utilize press coverage corners.
OL Graham Glasgow, Michigan
At 6-6, 298 pounds, Glasgow has an NFL body with light feet. He has the ability to get out in space and reach a moving target and has shown improved technique throughout his career. If he can get into an NFL weight room, get stronger and continue to improve his hand-use, he will be a quality player.
RB Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Reynolds is a decisive, elusive runner with the athleticism to make people miss in space. He has never played running back before, so there will be some growing pains. He's not quite as explosive as Jerrick McKinnon was coming out of the same offense a couple of years ago in a weaker running back group, meaning it'll be interesting to see when the 5-11, 195-pound player is drafted, if at all.
QB Nate Sudfeld, Indiana VS. QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
Sudfeld has a lot of positive traits that may translate well to an NFL career. He's got a good arm, is accurate, goes through his progressions quickly and throws with some anticipation. His lower-body mechanics will need work, but he has the ability to stick. Doughty on the other hand, throws one of the better deep balls in this class. He displays the ability to sidestep pressure and work in a muddy pocket. There are times, however, when he can be a little erratic as a passer. He is a solid developmental prospect who will definitely need some coaching to reach his potential.